ECT: a new look at an old friend

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as a treatment option in psychiatry is advancing day by day. This review discusses new advancements in ECT with regards to anesthetic variables, stimulus, and response variables along with their impact on clinical outcomes.

Recent findings

Anesthetic variables influence clinical efficacy and patient tolerance of ECT. Although etomidate or a ketamine–propofol combination may be the first choice for many clinicians, the search for ideal induction agent continues. Dexmedetomidine, remifentanil, or ketamine may aid in augmentation of ECT; however, they are not recommended routinely. A systematic procedure for hyperventilation of the patient has been shown to have clinical repercussions. Optimizing anesthesia-ECT time interval (ASTI) has a significant impact on the success of the procedure. BIS monitoring alone cannot be relied upon for timing stimulus. High-dose brief pulse right unilateral ECT represents an acceptable first-line form of treatment, though there is currently no ‘gold standard’. Other stimulus variations such as focal electrically administered seizure therapy, individualized low-amplitude seizure therapy, magnetic seizure therapy, left unilateral and left anterior right temporal electrode placements are explored to reduce memory effects. EEG ictal indices may be relied upon for seizure adequacy, and therefore may be used to both guide treatment and predict the outcome of the procedure.

Summary

Modern ECT is streamlined by augmentation with drugs, hyperventilation, optimizing anesthesia-ECT time interval, and various stimulus parameters guided by seizure adequacy markers.

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